Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nothing's Cooler than a Bunny Man

Ryan's been traveling a lot for work this past month and he's found a new obsession whilst staying in German hotel rooms-- the "Viva" channel, which is like German MTV. There is a European MTV actually, Viva seems to be more popular. And now that Ryan's found it, he's suddenly a walking top-20 countdown!

Americans tend to think of ourselves at the center of the world. What other country would host a "World Series" for a sport that no other country plays? So I've been surprised to listen to radio in Germany. Its not as much American music as I'd have anticipated. Its probably 20% German artists, 50% British, and 30% American. (There aren't that many German-only artists, but some like "Wir Sind Helden" are quite good.)

How many of you have ever heard of Robbie Williams? In America I doubt this guy could ever sign a record deal, partly because he is kinda goofy looking. And in America sexiness=musical talent, just ask Paris Hilton, who will shortly release her 2nd album. Anyway, Robbie used to be in a UK boy band. On the radio last week he proposed to a girl, and hearts broke across Europe. This was headline news. It turns out the whole thing was a stunt, and many people are very relieved. Below I'm posting a link to one of his hits "You Know Me," where he sings a love song as some kind of crazy White Rabbit. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sick Day(s)....

I starting coughing and aching on Sunday. Monday morning it felt like a truck had run me over some time in the middle of the night. I spent Monday morning playing phone tag with the parents of child I babysit, as well as calling every doctor in a 2km radius of my apartment. I was determined to switch to a new doctor after my last visit. But alas, the swine flu is just now hitting Germany and the doctor's offices are slammed. Except for my lovely doctor, who'd have guessed she'd have openings?

So I bundled myself down there yesterday and had my lungs listened to and nose looked at. She gave me three referrals for a swine flu test, a lung specialist, and an ENT. It was after 4pm by the time I left the swine flu lab, where they gave me face mask to wear and wouldn't let me touch anything. In fact the nurse commanded me to wear the mask all the way home and any time in public until my test results came back. Want to know how to get yourself lots of empty seats on the subway? Sit down wearing a surgical mask.

This morning I went back to crazy Frau Doctor to find out about the swine flu test. Instead she took two vials of my blood and told me to call back later. Eventually I got through and found out the swine flu test is negative, but since I'm still sick I need to go back and see the doctor again tomorrow morning.

On the upside, being sick has given me plenty of time to enjoy bizarre German television. Most of the programs are a mundane sort of reality TV, similar to their American counterparts only without fighting or drama. Most of the rest are "Krimi" detective type shows, either German original or dubbed American versions. I've only seen two sitcoms so far, a German version of "The Office" and a dubbed version of Fran Drescher's "The Nanny." Draw what inferences you will about the German sense of humor.

The best reality show is called "Mitten im Leben" (Middle of the Life?) about a mother fighting with her son's trashy new wife. The final straw came when they asked grandma to babysit while they got matching tattoos. They wanted Chinese symbols but their tattoo artist told them that wasn't cool anymore and suggested Buddhist symbols instead. Much cooler. Or as I learned from the TV today "total Klasse!"

But I must go now. "Goodbye Deutschland" is on, and that is my favorite. By the end of this week I'll at least know all the German jingles.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Vienna, City of Fancy Pants

Its been ages since the last post, but I did have some more to write about Vienna, and thanks to the flu bug I'm stuck at home with enough time to do so.

Walking around old Vienna is a fairy tale. Or at least a Disney movie. You have a palace (including lots of fancy gold dishes), a museum dedicated to "Sisi", including the special tub used to wash her ankle-length hair in cognac and egg yolks, fancy cafes, and lots of rich old ladies in fur coats.

I've rarely seen Americans in fur coats, but maybe I've never lived anywhere fancy enough. They are very popular in Bavaria and Austria, it would seem. I know a grandma who wears a fur coat nearly every day in winter, even when bicycling. I was pretty surprised to see this protest when walking though Vienna

We didn't stick around long enough to see if the protesters went to all 20 shops that had fur coats in the window.

The very last night we bought standing-room tickets at the opera. I was going to spare Ryan, but he was actually pretty eager to go. And I'm glad we did. I'm no opera expert, but the quality of the Vienna Opera was astonishing. It was like hearing music for the first time. We saw "Fidelio," Beethoven's only opera. It is about a woman who dresses as a man to save her husband from prison, except a woman who's really a woman falls in love with her. Ryan remarked, "In the old days people really had to worry about falling in love. Half of Shakespeare and opera is people pretending to be the opposite sex." The opera was great, at least the first half was (we could only stand standing for about 90 minutes). Before the opera we had the chance to wander the Opera House, and noticed that almost all the balconies are private boxes
Vienna sure has a lot of rich people.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


We decided to spend Halloween in Vienna. Or rather, Ryan's company decided to send him on back-to-back business trips to Bavaria and Vienna, and I decided to crash the weekend. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but sadly it is not much celebrated in Europe. Germans and Austrians prefer to focus on the day after, "All Saints Day" by decorating graves and listening to sermons.

Still, we managed to find some creepy things to do on our Saturday in Vienna. There were two crypts listed in our various guide books, the "Kaisergruft" where many of the Hapsburg royalty are buried, and one under the St. Stephen's Cathedral. We started with the Kaisergruft which was a show of very fancy and creepy coffins.

But I was largely disappointed. It was described as a Capuchin Crypt, and I was picturing this one in Rome. But there were no bones, unlike the awesome city crypt in Paris.

However, at St. Stephen's we were in for a treat. The tour, with our eager if not totally fluent guide started with some coffins of recent bishops, then moved to the jars of mummified Hapsburg organs! And just when I thought the tour was over, we stepped through a door and left the smooth marble hallways for a bumpy ancient passage. We saw rooms filled with bones from the mass burials during the plague. Mozart was dumped in such a grave, though at St. Mark's, not St. Stephen's. It was very creepy!

That night we topped it off with a performance of Mozart's "Requiem" in the Cathedral. I've been interested in this piece since I finally saw "Amadeus" last year. Mozart died before finishing it, the movie posits that writing it killed him. The music was very emotional-- seeming to cover the gambit of reactions and thoughts about death. Parts were serene enough to lull one to sleep and the next movement was all bass voices and unresolved cords, ringing dissonance through the dimly lit church.

On the way home I said to Ryan "Hey look, two vampires at the ATM." He looked for a long moment, and finally said, "Oh right, its Halloween."